Pier Paolo Pasolini, born on March 5, 1922 in Bologna Italy, is often cited by writer and filmmaker John Waters as being a big influence on his work, and it's clear to see why. Spanning the 1960s and 1970s, Pasolini released a wealth of films that, to this day, are capable of making even the most adventurous of film fans at least a tiny bit uncomfortable. And really, isn't true art supposed to rattle you up a bit?
In the age of sensationalist everything and anything, it's hard to squeeze out a human emotion. Many fans of true crime, horror, and outsider art might proclaim that nothing can shock them anymore, but it would be a challenge for anyone to say that after watching a Pasolini film. Both filmmakers, Pasolini and Waters, would probably say "good."
Pasolini's Oedipus Rex, released in 1967, centers on the child of a man in Mussolini's militia, juxtaposed with another child, left feral in the wild. 1969's Pigsty brings cannibals, ex-Nazis, and people who prefer the love of swine to that of their spouses to the picnic with the implication of a bow as if saying "There. choke that down with your popcorn and diet Sprite." But out of all of his films, which tap dance up and down both sides of the controversy dip-stick, Pasolini's final one, SALO, or the 120 Days of Sodom, is the ultimate feather in his cap.
Released in 1975, the film was loosely based on the book of the same name by Marquis de Sade and was called an "unrelenting parade of degradation and torture" by The Los Angeles Times. Sadly, Pasolini was not around to revel in what he would have surely seen as a tremendous success, based on similar reviews. The film was released three weeks after his death, which was a mirror match, in terms of violence and mystery, to the works of art that he left behind in his wake.
The exact details of Pasolini's last night on earth will never be known, but what is definite is that his badly injured corpse was discovered on the morning of November 2, 1975 in a vacant lot in Ostia, a suburb of Italy. According to information released after police investigated the scene, and his body was looked over by medical examiners, Pasolini appeared to have been run over by his own car, and had his genitals crushed by a metal bar of some sort. He was only 53-years old.
A 17-year-old man named Giuseppe Pelosi was charged with the crime, and claimed that Pasolini had solicited him for sex, inviting him into his car on the night November 1, 1975. Even though Pelosi himself confessed to murdering the film director, many believe there was more to the murder, and the chain of events surrounding it, than we'll ever know. A possible mob hit is one of the more popular, though unsubstantiated, theories. Alternately, friends and family of Pasolini are referenced in a Guardian article as believing political motives to be behind the murder.
According to The New York Times, Pelosi was pulled over by police for speeding, and it was determined that he was driving Pasolini's silver Alfa Romeo, which was also found to be the main device used in his murder. As if that wasn't evidence enough, Pelosi's ring, which he claimed to have lost, was discovered near Pasolini's corpse.
Pelosi himself lived a long life, made known only as that of a killer. He passed away on July 20, 2017. Given the nickname “the rana” (the frog) by Italian press due to his frequent enlarged black eyes, caused by prison fights, Pelosi's passing was much gentler than the one he gave to Pasolini. He died of a lung tumor.
On April 22, 2021, John Waters celebrated his 75th birthday with a tribute to his idol, an album released on Sub Pop called Prayer to Pasolini. The album was recorded "in a fenced-off park near Rome’s airport by a monument, which marks the area where Pasolini was brutally maimed and murdered in 1975," according to Rolling Stone. Listen to the album below.